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Four die after planes collide in midair near Trapper Creek

Casey Grove
A float plane sits on the side of the runway at Ted Stevens International Airport after making an emergency landing on Saturday, July 30, 2011. The float plane collided mid-air with a Cessna 180 in the Trapper Creek area.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
A damaged Cessna 206 prepares to land on the north-south runway at Ted Stevens International Airport Saturday afternoon, July 30, 2011. The plane, which was involved in a mid-air collision near Trapper Creek, was able to land safely on the runway.
Bob Butcher
A damaged Cessna 206 approaches the north-south runway at Ted Stevens International Airport Saturday afternoon, July 30, 2011. The plane, which was involved in a mid-air collision near Trapper Creek, was able to land safely on the runway.
Bob Butcher
A float plane sits on the side of the runway at Ted Stevens International Airport after making an emergency landing on Saturday, July 30, 2011. Officials remove material stuck to the float plane, which was involved in a mid-air collision with a Cessna 180 near Trapper Creek.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Pilot Corey Carlson and his wife Hetty along with their daughters Ella, 5, and Addie, 3, lost their lives in a floatplane crash after a mid-air collision near Amber Lake in the Trapper Creek area July 30, 2011. The pilot of the other floatplane was able to land safely in Anchorage.
Photo courtesy of the Barnett family

Four people died after a midair collision Saturday afternoon between two single-engine floatplanes at Amber Lake about 12 miles southwest of Trapper Creek, the Alaska State Troopers reported.

The lake is about 90 miles northeast of Anchorage.

One of the planes, a Cessna 180, crashed and burned. All aboard died as a result of the crash, said troopers spokeswoman Megan Peters.

Troopers were waiting for the State Medical Examiner's officer to confirm their identities before releasing any names of those who died.

The bodies have been recovered, said Peters.

The second plane, a Cessna 206, landed safely on a runway in Anchorage. Its pilot and lone occupant, Kevin Earp, 56, of Eagle River, was uninjured, Peters said. The plane's floats were heavily damaged in the collision, she said.

When the plane landed, it had a piece of debris tangled in its floats.

The planes hit each other about 2:15 p.m., Peters said. National Transportation Safety Board investigators believe the pilot of the Cessna 206 reported the collision and subsequent crash.

There are a few homes and recreational cabins around the lake, which is accessible by taking Petersville Road to Oil Well Road, said Dennis Brodigan, emergency services director for the Matanuska-Susitna Borough.

A rescue crew from Trapper Creek drove trucks, then four-wheelers, to get to the downed plane, Brodigan said.

"When our responders got on scene, the plane was fully engulfed in flames," he said. They used fire extinguishers to douse the flames, he said.

The pilot of the second plane decided to land in Anchorage, rather than at Amber Lake, which has limited or no capabilities to deal with an emergency, Brodigan said.

The second plane had landed by 3:30 p.m. on a hard-surface runway at Stevens International Airport, said NTSB investigator Larry Lewis.

Such landings -- floats skidding across a paved runway -- are not out of the ordinary in an emergency, said airport manager John Parrott.

"It was as uneventful as it could be," Parrott said.

The airport's north-south runway was closed for the emergency landing from about 3:15 to 4:30 p.m., Parrott said.

The plane was removed from the runway and investigators talked with the pilot, Lewis said by phone. The investigator said he was driving north to the crash site late Saturday.

Reach Casey Grove at casey.grove@adn.com or 257-4589.


By CASEY GROVE
casey.grove@adn.com